The conversation around whether or not schools should use uniforms evokes passionate arguments from both sides. Those against uniforms claim they are unconstitutional and stifle freedom of expression. Proponents of uniforms claim they reduce violence and gang activity.
For many years, only private schools required students to wear uniforms. Today, a large percentage of public schools have also implemented a school uniform policy. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), from 1999–2000 to 2013–14, the percentage of public schools requiring students to wear uniforms increased from 12 to 20 percent. The general view is that uniforms are a sign of order and students in private schools have more discipline.
Pros of school uniforms
Since the current trend seems to be for more in favor of public schools adopting school uniforms, let’s take a look at the benefits claimed by schools that require students to wear one:
- Improved attendance: Many people believe that the secret to getting something done — be it work or school — is having the proper mindset. The argument here is that students who wear uniforms are mentally prepared for school and everything that comes with it before they even leave the house in the morning.
- Help resist peer pressure: If every student wears the same uniform, there can be no peer pressure to force other students to wear trendy clothing.
- Increase school pride: School uniforms often contain school colors and help students to adopt school spirit and a sense of community with their peers.
- Help prevent gangs from forming on campus: Supporters of uniforms often cite the prevention of gangs as a major benefit.
- Encourage discipline: Wearing a school uniform is a constant reminder to the student of where he or she is and why they are there.
- Help identify intruders in the school: If everyone wears a uniform, gang members and intruders are easier to identify and remove.
- Diminish economic and social barriers between students: Rich or poor, all are equalized by uniforms.
Cons of uniforms
While school uniforms have many advantages, they also have some clear disadvantages:
- Hard to enforce in public schools: Although more public schools are adopting uniforms, they are difficult to enforce outside of private schools. For many parents and teachers, the general attitude is that uniforms aren’t that important in public schools. Parents feel that uniforms are an unfair expense since they are already paying taxes for their child’s public education.
- Can be a financial burden for poor families: Again, for poorer families who rely on free public education, it seems unfair to require parents to buy expensive uniforms.
- Turn students into targets for bullies from other schools: Everyone knows this story — the kid in the uniform walking home from school gets picked on by bullies from schools that don’t require uniforms.
- Violate a student’s right to freedom of expression: Many parents are simply opposed to uniforms because they violate their child’s right to freedom of expression.
- Hide bullying and school violence: Individuals against the use of uniforms believe that the uniform merely hides issues such as bullying and school violence.
- Too militaristic: Uniforms, by their very nature, are militaristic, and some parents and teachers feel that such a mentality can be detrimental to young children.
- Promote conformity: With every year that passes, America seems to celebrate individuality more and more. Uniforms promote the exact opposite — conformity.
There are valid pros and cons to the use of school uniforms. The debate about whether schools should require them will no doubt continue.
How do you feel about school uniforms? Does your child wear a uniform? Would you be opposed or not to sending your daughter or son to a school that requires uniforms?